Former Amish Christmas Celebrations

At this time if the year when the nights are so long and so dark, I sure do enjoy sitting quietly in our living room, with Christmas lights all around me, I am so thankful for the celebration of light in the Christmas season. It seems in all the holiday traditions, lights are involved. In the darkest time of the year, the spirit often has little to give, and so we turn towards the light to restore our souls. And that is what David and I like to do when we sit in our living room, often with a cup of tea in hand.

Back when I was still Amish, I found this time of the year so dark and bleak. We were not allowed to decorate for Christmas, which meant no tree. Just like so many things, because I was deprived as a child, I am appreciating my deocrations more because of that. I suppose you could say I now have former Amish Christmas celebrations.

Below are a few photos of our living room this season. David made this ark for the boys when they were growing up. We've had it on our bookshelf for a while. When David was stringing up the lights, he had the idea to light up the ark… here is the result.


David made this creche some years ago. I just love the rustic beauty of it. I always add knomes to the scene. Somehow it adds to the wonder and mystery of  Christ's birth story.


Here is the desert scene that David created a few years ago that we've been re-creating ever since.



And here is the village scene on our mantel. I'm realizing how all these scenes represent David's talents and creativity.



At least I decorated the tree and sewed the gift bags for the presents.



I still have some Christmas shopping to do, but most of the gifts are either on their way or packaged and under the tree. I've decided not to send out Christmas cards or letters this year. Some years I have the energy for that, and others I don't. My hope is that my friends will stay in touch via blog and email.

I've also been spending time in my attic, braiding rugs. I finished another rug today. I wanted a companion rug to the one I already had in the front hallway. I actually made two… one small one for the bottom of the stairs, and one for in front of the door. Here is what they look like.




I plan to braid two more rugs in the near future, and then I'll likely be taking a break from making them. One of these days I hope to get back to writing. For now I find it a good distraction from the winter that forces me to go inward.

How about you? Do you find this time of the year stressful or restorative? How do you cope with the darkness and cold of winter?


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30 thoughts on “Former Amish Christmas Celebrations”

  1. Lovely pic`s, Saloma. You are both very talented. We are taking it a bit slower this Christmas season but still having a great time. Due to flue and cold viruses in our home we are a bit behind with our christmas shopping and the cards, but there is still time left to do it.
    Have a blessed day and Merry Christmas from all of us here. :-)))

    1. Miriam, thank you for your compliments. I hope you and your family soon feel better. Yes, there certainly is time for shopping and sending cards. I wonder what shopping in Switzerland is like? I cannot imagine it is as hectic as here in the states. You live in such a beautiful country!

      1. Well, at least to us the christmas shopping here it is a rather hectic and stressful. Not really what we prefere.
        We quit the hectic christmas shopping a few years ago and decided to have some quality time with family and friends instead.

  2. Good Morning Saloma. I am new to your blog and I am enjoying it very much. Your decorations are all so lovely. David has been gifted with a beautiful talent. The rugs are wonderful and alot of work. I gave up the stress of Christmas some years ago. I now have triplet great granddaughters, 17 mo. old, and they really brighten our long MI. winters. I wish you and David a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year.

    1. Hello there! Welcome to my blog. Thank you for your compliments. Yes, David is very talented.

      Oh, I can imagine your joy… tripled. I look forward to being a grandmother someday, if that is in the cards.

      May you and your family have a joyful and warm Christmas and New Year!

  3. Saloma,
    Your rugs are truly beautiful! I had some braided rugs years ago and they were my absolute favorites. David’s wood crafting is pretty darn awesome too! Does he still craft and sell some of his work?

    I also wanted to tell you that I made your pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and it was honestly the best pumpkin pie we’ve ever tasted. I hope someday you publish a cookbook. Hint hint

    1. Hello Kellee,

      Thank you for your compliments on the rugs. No, David is not practicing his woodcrafting at the moment. He is pouring his talents into home energy audits these days. He is a man of many talents.

      I am so glad you like my pumpkin pie recipe. I do hope to write a cookbook some day. I have an idea for one. However, cookbooks are a hard sell these days, I think. Many people are doing away with them. (I know this from being on the Friends of the Library Committee, and we are getting more cookbook donations than in any other category for our book sales.)

      Thank you, Kellee, for your encouragement.

  4. This is a relatively quiet Christmas for us. We have a large Moravian star (from Lititz) hanging outside. Plus white lights in a tree and single candles in the windows.

    No tree this year. We helped decorate Anthony and Chelsea’s tree with Owen and Julia instead. And we will see them again after Christmas. I love your creche! That David is a talented fellow.

    Merry Christmas to both of you.

    1. Shirley, it is great to see you! I’m so glad you got a chance to decorate a tree with your grandchildren… what a treat!

      Yes, David is very talented. I’m glad you like the creche.

      May you and Stuart have a Christmas and New Year filled with joy, warmth, and love!

  5. Your house looks lovely for Christmas. In Holland we say: “Gezellig”(Cosy). You and David are very creative!
    My house is also “gezellig” with the tree and candles. I love this dark December days!

    1. Sonja, thank you for the compliments. I hadn’t thought of cozy as a word to describe the feeling on these December nights when the lights are shining. “Gezellig”… I like that. In German it’s “gemütlich” or “bequem.”

      I like these dark December days too… but only because of Christmas and the lights. January and February not so much. We need to resurrect the tradition we had established in Vermont, of having “game nights” in which we invited friends over to play games. It really helped to dispell the winter blues.

      May your Christmas be filled with warmth, love, and lots of light!

  6. Saloma: Thank you so much for giving us a Christmas light tour of your home. I not only enjoyed your lights, but the backdrop of your home in general. The wood tones are marvelous, as is the simplicity..can’t imagine where that came from. I bought an early midlife M.A., so I’m still house dreaming.

    And if David really gets into the energy thing, with his talent set, you may find yourself with a solar water heater, solar array, etc. I’ve got several friends who are gifted energy worker bees, and what they have done at home and at the college is amazing.

    Happy Holydays. Beth

    1. Beth, thank you for your comments. The wood tones cannot be replaced… they are chestnut. This house was built just a few years before the chestnut blight, when that was a common wood to use for building. We appreciate and cherish the woodwork in our home.

      You are right… David has already conducted a “deep energy retrofit” in our home. We do have solar panels on our porch roof. And we have LED lights throughout the house. It was way more expensive than we thought it would be, but now our utility bills are low. He has also restored the wraparound porch on the front of our house.

      You cannot imagine where the simplicity comes in… ha. When I sent my mother photos of our house some years ago (a different house), she wrote back and said that people think my house looks Amish. I think she meant it as a way of saying, “You’ve left the Amish, but you haven’t changed.” But I took it as a compliment. I despise clutter, which means I don’t like accumulating things.

      Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  7. Saloma,
    Your lovely home shows a glimpse of your Amish upbringing. I find it beautiful. Arks have always interested me. Throughout history they were often referred to as “Sunday Toys.” Children were not allowed to play on Sunday, but an ark was viewed as being an acceptable item. I want to extent my warmest Christmas greetings to you and David. Tom The Backroads Traveller

  8. Mary Keim Maarsen

    I look forward to reading your blogs because I never know what to expect. I find them very helpful in my own journey. I sometimes wonder if some of my early memories might be made up but I am sure they aren’t. When I was a young child we didn’t have a Christmas tree or decorations either because my mother didn’t think we should. She grew up Amish and even tho her parents weren’t so strict, there were some things the family apparently didn’t do. We moved to a different place and there was a woods at the back of the farm and at Christmas time, my father went out and found a tree and brought it into the house and we decorated it. By that time I guess my mother decided it was OK. I was able to find 2 of the glass balls we had in our tree and I put them in our tree here each year. Many times I have to think about my mother and how hard it must have been sometimes to see some things change especially when she felt it was wrong. My youngest brother has no idea about the Christmas tree history because his world was completely different. I too sit in our living room in the short days and long nights before Christmas and enjoy the pretty lights and the special things we bring out at Christmas. Thanks again for your blog.

    1. Mary, thank you for your kind words about my blog posts, and I’m also glad they help you in your journey. That is really why this blog exists, and it is gratifying to know that it is meaningful to you.

      I love the story of the emerging Christmas decorations in your family of origin. I’m so happy for you that you have the connection to the first tree with the glass balls.

      I will think of you and your story the next time I sit by my tree at night.

      May your Christmas and New Year be filled with love and light.

  9. Mary Keim Maarsen

    Saloma, Once again I enjoyed your blog. You put into words what I want to say but don’t exactly know how. When I was quite small we lived on a farm close to a quarry. It was in the first several years that my parents were married. My mother who grew up in a much stricter group of Amish than my father didn’t believe in having a Christmas tree or other decorations. (We weren’t Amish) However we didn’t seem to miss not having a tree or the other stuff because my mother did bake special cookies and we would have a huge family dinner at my grandparents house in town. Maybe we didn’t even know that some people did have a tree because no one in our church did. Then we moved to another place. I was around 12 yrs old. We children begged for a Christmas tree but my mother just couldn’t give in until one Christmas, my father went to the woods behind our place and found a tree that made a special Christmas tree. He brought it into the house and we decorated it. After that we always had a tree. Slowly but surely things changed and my mother became less and less strict. I couldn’t always understand why she was like she was until I moved to another country. There were some things I just couldn’t abide with and understand. Many a time I thot of my mother and what it must have been like for her to be confronted with some changes. I would get so tired of all the rules and regulations that the conservative church had figured out when I was growing up and I vowed my kids wouldn’t be saddled with all that kind of thing but when my time came I found out in a hurry that some rules and regulations are necessary. I lived thru it and I tell my children and grandchildren about how it was when I grew up especially about the Christmas cookies and the Christmas program in the church and I am so thankful that my memories have taken on a positive side. By the way, thanks for sharing your pretty home at Christmas.

    1. Mary, I am coming around to understanding things about my parents I didn’t understand at the time I was growing up. Yes, rules are necessary. Especially when raising children… they need limits. Perhaps re-examining our memories and coming to new understandings is part of the process of aging…

      It is my pleasure to share my home. Thank you for your story and your comments.

  10. Mary Keim Maarsen

    Hello Salome, I didn’t mean to be redundant with my stories and reactions to your blog but I couldn’t find my first reaction to the blog so I wrote another one. Looks like I am experiencing a senior moment.I’d better start watching it. M.

    1. Mary, you did not have a senior moment… the comments don’t show up until I have moderated them. When I read the second message, I thought that may have been what happened. Not to worry!

      Thank you for stopping by again, and have a wonderful weekend.

  11. Hi Saloma, Just catching up on your blog and as usual it’s very thought provoking. Like your mom, I too always thought the pictures of your house looked Amish. It’s a clean and uncluttered style that suits you.

    When I was a child, a lot of our neighbors had Xmas lights on their windows and homes. We did some decorations, but never anything like that. But oh how we loved to drive around and look at the lights. I still find joy in driving through my town and looking at the light displays. It gives me a little reprieve at a time of the year when it gets dark so early.

    As usual, your braided rugs are second to none. Have a Merry Christmas!

    1. Monica, it is so good to see you here! I remember reading a very beautiful blog post by you about driving around and enjoying the Christmas lights. It does feed the spirit at this time of year, doesn’t it?

      Thank you, Monica, for your compliment about my braided rugs. I finished another one last night… this one a very different color scheme from the last several. I’ll share it on the blog soon.

      May your Christmas be filled with peace and light!

  12. Hi Saloma, I’m playing ‘catch-up.’ It will take a while, but I wanted to let you know you have good company in these dark December nights. The winter darkness is why our Christmas tree doesn’t go up until just before Christmas and stays up until the end of January. People think I’m crazy… nope! And when it snows in February, I’m just as liable to to turn on the outside “Christmas lights” then, too!

    Your rugs and David’s artwork are amazing, as usual :-) Thanks for sharing with all of us.

    1. Peggy, it is so good to see you… I’ve missed you and wondered where you’ve been!

      I made a mental note this year to cut the tree later, so it lasts longer after Christmas is over. I like your idea.

      Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to more communications.

  13. Hi Saloma! Happy New Year! It’s the first day of January, I’m sitting here surrounded by purring cats and catching up with your blogs. It will be nice to be home today and see my house in the daylight. It’s sunrise when I leave for work and sunset when I get home, and once it’s dark I don’t have the energy to be active. Your home is always so beautiful and restful. Thank you for the pictures! I hope our paths cross again soon, I’d love to see you and David again. Big hugs! Lori.
    P.S. I loved your post about cloth gift bags and still cherish the lovely blue one you gave me when I bought one of David’s churches. I don’t sew, but I reuse paper gift bags and tissue (if it’s not too wrinkled).

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